Doug Ford ought to cease blaming Ottawa for health-care funding

Doug Ford and his fellow premiers declare they’ve discovered the treatment for what aids well being care:

Billions of {dollars} extra in federal funding. That method, Ford’s Tories can lower the gasoline tax and rebate license plate charges, all on the federal dime on the similar time.

Reunited in Victoria, united in opposition to Ottawa, their crusades are a relentless in Canadian politics. For 2 days this week, the premiers are coming collectively to face in opposition to the prime minister of the day, whereas demanding a face-to-face assembly with Justin Trudeau.

It’s a rhetorical ritual of summer season — earlier than, throughout and after COVID-19: Dire warnings and determined appeals not simply on well being care, however immigration and different areas of shared jurisdiction or disputed funds.

Over time, the confrontation by no means adjustments, whatever the realities on the bottom or the get together in energy: money move from one other degree of presidency is portrayed because the panacea for the pandemic, the answer to each drawback, the reply to each query about our collective well being.

Easy? Simplistic? Or a systemic drawback of finger-pointing and passing the buck — billions of them?

For sufferers languishing in hospital, or folks caught on ready lists for surgical procedure, the perennial battle over funding feels incomprehensible and theoretical. They need motion, not abstraction.

The premiers complain that Ottawa is not residing as much as its phrase on medicare funding, by failing to cost-share on a 50-50 foundation. However that may be a half-truth by any measure.

To make certain, upon the delivery of medicare greater than a half-century in the past, Ottawa dedicated to cost-sharing. However what began with the federal authorities shoveling money with out query to provincial counterparts shortly led to complaints from each side about constraints and commitments.

Throughout many years of negotiations, a portion of these money transfers have been reworked into taxing powers — the power for provinces to lift their very own income, in lieu of cash handed right down to them by large brother in Ottawa. The federal authorities lowered its tax charges with a view to relinquish “fiscal room” to the provinces to lift the revenues by themselves.

That complexity is a quintessentially Canadian compromise. However it is usually a fiscal actuality that the premiers conveniently overlook after they complain, as Ford did once more Monday in Victoria, that Ontario is shortchanged by declining federal cost-sharing.

“We’d like extra assist from the federal authorities,” Ford advised reporters on the convention’s first day, echoing the complaints of Ontario premiers earlier than him. Claiming that Ottawa pays a mere 22 per cent of the health-care payments, he argued that for Queen’s Park to be saddled with the remaining “78 per cent … is just not sustainable.”

The historical past of medicare does not fairly bear that out. In actuality, Ottawa’s total share is nearer to one-third of the invoice.

“It is true that to start with, medicare prices have been roughly break up 50/50. However in 1977, the premieres agreed to basically change that break up,” wrote Tom McIntosh, analysis co-ordinator for the 2002 Royal Fee on the Way forward for Well being Care.

“Beneath this association, medicare prices have been reallocated … (with) 25 per cent from the worth of tax factors transferred from the federal authorities to the provinces,” the College of Regina political scientist wrote final 12 months. “The parable of the 50/50 break up being important to well being financing has been perpetuated.”

The revenue-raising capability of those so-called “tax factors” handed over to the provinces are pretty much as good as gold, as a result of they develop with the economic system and by no means go away. Until, that’s, you intentionally lower taxes and scale back revenues, because the Ford authorities retains doing, and as different premiers do every in their very own method.

This results in the absurdity of the federal authorities transferring that taxing authority to the premiers, who then rework themselves into tax-cutters at election time — solely to demand that Ottawa make up the shortfall within the aftermath. The maths does not add up, not if you subtract these hefty vote-buying checks mailed out by Ford at election time when he rebated plate charges.

That does not imply there is not room for generosity from Ottawa to assist the provinces address COVID-19. However hyping the cost-sharing equation whereas lowballing the true federal contribution seems to be like play-acting by politicians who’re bargaining on the bazaar when they need to be making severe plans for post-pandemic well being care.

Many senior employees within the former Ontario Liberal authorities who crusaded fervently for extra federal well being care transfers, and who now management the levers of energy within the federal Liberal authorities, are out of the blue in no hurry to spice up the funding method (aside from huge pandemic-related contributions). Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who now crusades for more cash from Ottawa, additionally had the chance to reform the funding method as a part of the federal Conservative authorities of Stephen Harper, however did not.

There is a related dynamic — situational politics — at play on immigration and resettlement, an space of ​​shared jurisdiction; Ontario’s premiere has signaled he desires better management over the move of expert employees wanted to fill jobs in a rising economic system. It is a cheap demand that Ontario has pursued for greater than a decade. , the federal minister of immigration who refused to go alongside, on the time, was none aside from Kenney — Ford’s comrade in arms at this week’s assembly of premiers, clamoring for extra concessions from Ottawa.

Extra proof of the political adage that the place you stand — and what you demand — is dependent upon the place you sit — and what’s in it for you.

Martin Regg Cohn is a Toronto-based columnist specializing in Ontario politics and worldwide affairs for the Star. Comply with him on Twitter: @reggcohn


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